Monday, June 30, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Red Madness: How a medical mystery changed what we eat by Gail Jarrow

This was an interesting, if gruesome and sometimes gross, book but I can't picture an audience for it at my library.

It's the story of an epidemic, pellagra, that swept the United States and how medical researchers finally conquered it. Pellagra was well-known, but always thought to be a European disease, probably caused by moldy corn. It was most severe in the spring, gradually wearing off until the winter arrived and the sufferer mostly recovered, only to fall ill again the next year. Symptoms included a distinctive rash on the face, hands and feet that eventually caused blistering and peeling skin, diarrhea, lassitude and exhaustion, and eventual madness and death. As doctors began to find more and more cases, especially in the South, a series of medical researchers struggled to find the causes of this horrible disease. Dr. Joseph Goldberger eventually became the main researcher, dedicated to destroying the disease that was killing thousands and condemning thousands more to misery and insanity. Eventually, after many experiments, he discovered that the disease was caused by a deficiency in diet. There wasn't enough research at the time to isolate the specific cause, but he found that pellagra could be quickly cured with the administration of Brewer's yeast and a healthy, varied diet that included lean meat, fresh milk and eggs. Unfortunately, politics, economics, and ignorance stood in his way and many more people died while Goldberger fought to prove his theory was correct and that a large number of people in the United States were suffering from malnutrition. Eventually he was proved correct and lived long enough to see the beginning of the end of the disease.

The text is interspersed with frequent stories about pellagra sufferers and original documents - letters, notes, and more. There are also numerous black and white photos, mostly of people suffering from pellagra, but also of families and life in the poor communities of the south. A question and answer section at the back summarizes the book and adds additional information about the disease and how it changed what food you eat today. There is also a glossary, timeline, additional sources for information, author's note, source notes, index, and picture credits.

As I said at the beginning, this was absolutely fascinating. Not just the details of the disease (which were pretty disgusting and I'm not much into medical stuff) but how it impacted history. For example, when they called a draft for World War II, over a quarter of the men were too malnourished to serve. It was interesting too, in light of the many arguments against additives in food to see the reasons behind some of them. It's amazing to see, in the light of all the discussions of health/healthy eating today, how these major diseases were completely eradicated - so much that nobody knows what they are (I checked - I have spent most of the last week approaching staff and randomly quizzing them, but so far nobody has ever heard of pellagra. Of course, I'm the only person from the South, which does make a difference.) However, I can't quite picture who'd I'd give this to at my library. It's not really going to interest, or be appropriate for, the average middle grade reader. The pictures of the pellagra suffers are often grotesque and the descriptions of the disease and those who suffered from it are nightmarish. Many went insane and/or committed suicide. It's also very dense text. I didn't really care for the layout of the source documents - they're separated from the main text by a red heading and a slightly different font, but unless you look really closely, they just look like they're starting a new section of the story, which makes it confusing when they end abruptly and you jump back into the main story. History can be a hard sell to this age group and while this is an interesting story, especially how science conquered a disease that had plagued people for centuries, it just doesn't have the oomph to grab their attention. It's really aimed at teen readers, but I only have two shelves of teen nonfiction and they're generally browsing things, like fashion, puberty, etc. (One last minor detail - there's a typo on page 10).

Verdict: I enjoyed reading this (if "enjoyed" is really the right word) but I wouldn't recommend it for the average public library. I think it might be of more interest in a high school library, especially if your classes study this era in history.

ISBN: 9781590787328; Published 2014 by Calkins Creek; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, June 28, 2014

This Week at the Library; or, Chaos Week 3

Random Commentary
  • Week 3 of summer reading. We had a staff meeting on Monday and forgot to actually set up the Wii until 30 minutes after it was supposed to start.
  • Almost 200 people (including a group of about 60 kids) came to see the magician. I haven't seen him before - he was great! Circulation exploded. I'm having nightmares about the shelving, spilling out over everything and engulfing me.
  • In the midst of everything, thinking about next year - I need to schedule more shelving time for the aides (which will be part of simplifying summer programs next year and doing things that don't need multiple staff). I'm also thinking of a new summer reading program based on a teen srp suggestions someone gave me on Facebook. There will be changes next year. Next year will be better. That's what I tell myself every year. I am so tired right now.
  • Things did calm down a little...on Friday.
What are the kids reading? A sample of this week's reader's advisory questions
  • I survived series by Lauren Tarshis
  • Dork Diaries very popular, Popularity Papers - some kids love them, some kids don't
  • Talking to a kid about what they were reading, said she had read Moomin (very weird, interjected her dad) I suggested Hilda and a few minutes later saw her walking out with it. Woo!
  • Pokemon
  • Tried - and failed - to help a patron on the computer. So I said (because I have a weird sense of humor) that even though I couldn't help with the computer, I could do children's book she said "well, there was this series I loved as a child but you wouldn't know it..." It was Lois Leppard's Mandie series and I had them! She was so happy.
  • Hundred Horses by Sarah Lean (school visit book) checked out, so she took Dog Called Homeless instead.
  • Smile - also recommended Amelia Rules and Leslie Margolis
  • Star Wars

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Mysterious Schoolmaster by Karin Anckarsvard, illustrated by Paul Galdone, translated by Annabelle MacMillan

It's a mystery to me why small town adventures went out of style. This is a particular genre in my mind, and it involves a small town, a group of kids with remarkable freedom from parental interference (usually one or two are the main characters and inspire the rest of the gang), and they solve mysteries. It's an awesome genre and many of them are remarkably gender-neutral for the time they were written. I don't see why we couldn't add some more racially diverse kids and offer these to a whole new generation. I get a constant stream of kids asking for mysteries but it's really hard to find something that will satisfy their desire - most of the middle grade mysteries are too puzzle-based and either strive too hard for realism, or go the other way and fall into complete fantasy. Scholastic has updated some of their popular paperback series with great results - Ruth Chew is circulating like crazy in my library - and I would like to set forth a proposal to republish some of these other titles.

Specifically this one. I first encountered Karin Anckarsvard when I was looking for Swedish children's mysteries similar to Astrid Lindgren's Bill Bergson trilogy. Anckarsvard wrote a whole slew of small town adventure mysteries as well as several really good contemporary fiction novels that would be historical fiction today. This is my favorite of all her books and if you like these characters you can pick up on their lives in future adventures.

Michael and Cecilia have met before of course. After all, it's a small town - even if they do have 860 pupils in the school, a truly tremendous number. But Cecilia is busy helping at home; in fact, they have a new baby which explains why she was carrying a package of diapers, which she left at school and then she saw a new teacher doing something very odd. Michael seemed a handy person to tell and before they know it they're friends and investigating the mystery. There's danger, excitement, and lots of trouble, especially with oblivious adult authorities who don't want to listen to the kids' warnings. In the end, after several dangerous adventures, Cecilia and Michael save the day and both win awards at school as well as becoming firm friends.

What makes Karin Anckarsvard (and similar mysteries like Bill Bergson) so interesting, and a little different from the usual small town adventures, is the vein of realism that runs through them. I'm not talking about what passes for "realistic mysteries" in contemporary literature, which usually focus more on family issues and characters. Cecilia and Michael are in real, frightening danger. They're scared and do silly things but in the end they persevere because they know something's wrong and nobody will listen to them. The principal's speech at the end praises their courage and imagination, but Michael and Cecilia themselves are more concerned with putting their frightening adventures behind them and talking about the reconvening the dance club next semester. It's this attitude, that both the children know these aren't normal adventures or things that kids should be dealing with, that makes these stories both exciting and realistic. The author acknowledges that this is a kind of adventure-fantasy, but then puts realistic characters into the adventure that kids can relate to and imagine what it would be like to have a similar adventure.

Verdict: This is written in the 50s, so it's not surprising that the villains are spies and there are plenty of period details, like the dance club and so on. Cecilia is initially described as shy and easily frightened, but when it matters she seizes her courage in both hands and saves Michael on several occasions. She's never relegated to sidekick status and from the beginning she and Michael are equal partners. It's historical fiction now, but the characters are fresh and real, the mystery every bit as exciting and dangerous, and the details as lifelike and funny as when it was first written. Sadly, I don't think this author is well-known enough to bring her books back into print, but I can hope!

TX 1345; Originally published 1955, this edition published 1968 by Scholastic; From my personal library

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Petal and Poppy by Lisa Clough, illustrated by Ed Briant

It seems like everybody is jumping on the easy reader comic bandwagon these days, even people who really, really should not be trying this format. I saw this book reviewed in a publication and my first thought was "do I really need another odd couple easy reader series? No, I do not." But my second thought was, well, summer is coming and my easy reader circulation is going to double or triple, so I'll take a look.

Petal is an elephant who worries and practices the tuba. Poppy is a...rhinoceros I guess, who likes to go on adventures and does not like the tuba. Petal gets so worried when Poppy goes scuba diving that she goes with her. When Poppy gets lost, Petal's tuba helps her find her way and when Petal jumps in the water to save her, Poppy rescues Petal from drowning.

The story is illustrated in large, clearly defined comic panels. Briant's art is colorful and detailed and shows the two friends and their very different personalities in their clothes, activities, and expressions.

The problem is, the story doesn't really make sense. We start with Petal and Poppy on different levels in their lighthouse, one playing the tuba and the other getting ready to go scuba-diving. Then, suddenly, they're on the same floor talking together. While Poppy is diving, a storm comes up (my first thought was it was caused by the tuba playing) and when she gets to the surface there's fog and she can't find the boat. I am the farthest thing imaginable from a diver, but I'm pretty sure that scuba divers don't go deep enough not to notice disturbances on the surface? While Poppy hears the tuba and starts swimming towards it, Petal determines to save her friend and says "Banzai?" as she leaps into the water....but apparently she can't swim. Meanwhile, the storm has apparently disappeared as suddenly as it came up and the water is flat as glass again.

Verdict: It's not a bad story and I'm probably being overly critical of things most kids wouldn't notice, but I am soooo tired of the odd couple genre and while the art in this is attractive, the story isn't at all what I'd want to give to beginning readers who need clear, simple plots to follow while they're decoding the words.

ISBN: 9780544114777; Published 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Read, Read, Read, Said the Baby: You can do it!; I can do it too! by Karen Baicker, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max

[This review was previously published. It has been edited and rewritten.]

These are my newest, most favorite board books! In the first story, an exuberant little girl carefully demonstrates her many exciting new skills, one for each member of the family. She pours juice like Dad, gets dressed all by herself like big sister, makes cakes like Grandma, and finally celebrates her baby brother's new independence with the rest of her family.

In the second story, the same little girl takes her role as big sister seriously as she role models fun skills for her baby brother, from playing drums with the pots and pans, to painting and going down the slide. The story finishes with the delighted baby brother finding something he can teach his big sister how to do!

These board books are nice and sturdy and a lovely oversized shape, approximately 8 by 8 inches. The rhyming text is perfect for small children, encouraging them to try their own new things and enjoy the simple humor and overflowing happiness and love of the families in these stories. The illustrator's art is vibrant and splashy, with simple lines that even younger children can follow and a few small details for older listeners.

These are great toddler story time read-alouds, great for parents to read with their little ones, and would also be absolutely perfect for older siblings to read to their baby brothers and sisters, or for a family to enjoy together, trying out the different activities.

Verdict: Highly recommended for your board book section. I'm so pleased I purchased these and we've had years of love for them.

I can do it
ISBN: 978-0811875608; Published June 2010 by Handprint Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library.

You can do it
ISBN:978-0811875615; Published June 2010 by Handprint Books; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

This book is blurbed by Eric Carle. I don't usually look at blurbs, but that's kinda impressive. And, it turns out, well-deserved.

The book is set up in simple rhyming couplets divided into two spreads. The first spread has the opening of the couplet, for example, "Some bugs flutter. Some bugs crawl." Then the second page caps it with a surprise "Some bugs curl up in a ball." The rhyming verb in each phrase is capitalized, similar to what you see on the cover. The text is simple, minimal really, with just five couplets and a final rhyme that incorporates all the verbs.

The art is really different. Just from the cover, I thought it would be slick, bright digital images but once I started looking at the book I started seeing more and more different techniques and, well, as the publisher information says "The illustrations for this book are rendered in almost everything imaginable." There's collage, and scribbly crayon and colored pencil bugs with googly eyes and a soft fuzzy cat that looks like it's drawn with chalk and gorgeously painted flowers could spend HOURS looking at just one page.

By the time I was halfway through I was holding my breath, thinking "please, please, please have an identification guide at the back" and they DID! Woo!

Verdict: This is the perfect book for bug storytimes with toddlers or preschoolers, for one-on-one reading with the entomologist in your life, for poring over alone to get all the nuances of the art. In short, a lovely, lovely thing. I suggest you buy it instantly for your library.

ISBN: 9781442458802; Published 2014 by Beach Lane/Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Saturday, June 21, 2014

This week at the library; or The Chaos Continues

Random Commentary
  • Monday: Chaos, staffing issues, hired a new aide, meetings with my director, Middle School Madness - we basically set up the Wii, put up a sign, and had snacks left over from Girls Night Out. About 10 people came, middle schoolers and some parents and siblings. One mom apologized when her younger kids went in, but I told her I didn't care - the sign was mostly so that people wouldn't expect a librarian to actually be showing the younger kids HOW to play Wii. Also finished planning Safety Town, met with organizer for Safety Town, scheduling Safety Town. Exhaustion.
  • Some of my fave patrons came in that evening- two sisters and their friend D, who keeps them all in line. They live up the street and are about nine now, but I still remember two summers ago when they were SO THRILLED to be coming to the library on their own! I love them because they're always so enthusiastic about summer reading and books and coming up to ask me questions! They wanted to check out All The Things I brought to school.
  • Tuesday! Pattie is on an actual-to-goodness vacation so my brave associate took over her storytimes. I thought she did a pretty good job and nobody cried when Pattie wasn't there, which is more than I can say for some of my substitute gigs. Gathered my staff and sundry others I borrowed (with permission!) and we had Angry Birds (which was crazy - I did NOT have enough staff!), then I set up for Safety Town tomorrow and had more staffing stuff to do and finally went home shortly after five. If you are noticing there was no lunch in there, you are correct, which is probably why I felt out of sorts all day.
  • Wednesday! My associate and I arrived early for last-minute set up, then the rest of the staff arrived at 9....and then we waited. Major thunderstorms meant that the kids couldn't get on the buses and so we started almost 30 minutes late. However, despite that, I thought it all went pretty smoothly, although of course there will be tweaks for next year. We never did get all the kids signed up for library cards, but it's hard to work it between end of school and summer school and a lot of parents don't want kids that young to have a card anyways. After we finished, I grabbed something to eat and then 40-60 kids from the local daycare came in. They asked this morning and I was like "sure!" because they don't ask me to do a program (I do separate summer reading for them that happens at their school), they are always super well-behaved, and it's not like they're competing - there are no other daycares in town anywhere close to their size (other one only takes 15 kids). Of course I had nonstop questions at the desk though! And then another smaller group of kids came in from...something the rec department was doing, I dunno. While all this happened I did summer reading and reader's advisory for all the other families, filled displays, and finished planning Friday's program. Finally went home a little after five. PHEW!
  • Thursday! My awesome associate once again came through and did baby storytime (to much acclaim by the families - YES a good baby storytime provider is sooo hard to find - and it sure isn't me), then I went out to the information desk, then I had one of my aides do summer reading and projects (but not actually AT the youth services desk, because that's not in her job description, although she could totally do it) while I grabbed something to eat and dealt with more staffing issues, then completely changed the schedule for the aides - I think this almost ends my staffing issues - and hastily set up for Lego Club, which I didn't get done before it was time to start and I was like "oh, it doesn't matter people show up slowly at the beginning and they can help me set up" and then OMG LIKE FIFTY PEOPLE poured in in the first ten minutes and I stopped counting when I hit somewhere around 80, so...yeah, that was nuts! I didn't leave until six.
  • Friday! Came early because I had to stop and pick up snacks for the program, then I did We Explore, then I did...stuff...then I left at 3:30ish because I've worked an insane amount this week, and anyways I had to go buy hamster food.
  • And the week ends!
What are the kids reading? (A sampling of this week's requests)
  • Lego Ninjago
  • Panda books
  • Girl books (this turned out to be a request for fairy easy readers which was satisfied with the Daisy Meadows easy reader spin-offs)
  • Divergent and sequels, Hunger Games and sequels
  • Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, Rick Riordan, Dork Diaries
  • Big Nate continues to be my most frequent read-alike recommendation for Wimpy Kid that fans haven't heard of.
  • This is a moose (from my school visits)
  • Rose by Holly Webb (also inspired by my school visits)
  • Girl with the silver eyes (again, school visits)
  • 10 year old who really wants to read books from the teen area that are too old, loves superheroes, ended up with Andy Briggs' and
  • Read-alikes for Andrea Cheng's Year of the Baby - gave Dessert by Hallie Durand and Ruth Chew - loved Ruth Chew, back for more
  • Requests for family read-alouds - Paddington, Ruth Chew, Charlotte's Web
  • Moo! by David LaRochelle (recommended to a little sister by her big sister)
  • Spirit Animals, 39 Clues (need to replace, add 2nd copies!)
  • Books for various patrons with special/specific reading needs - Dragonbreath, Kate DiCamillo, Pamela Service, London Eye Mystery, Madeleine L'Engle
  • Walking Dead, which segues into suggestions to read Sixth Gun
  • Captain Underpants (and a lesson on using the catalog)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

As I work on recataloging and reorganizing my library, I am finding so many great books that I never reviewed when they came out. I guess it's because I find it harder to review the really good books, the ones that I personally love. Ultimately, it's a subjective thing - something I find wonderful and funny and sweet and just perfect, others will say "meh" to. I've gotten pretty good at figuring out what books kids will like and what graphic novels teens will read at my library (not many) but it's still hard to be objective about reviewing a book from a collection development standpoint when you just LOVE IT SO HARD.

Maggie is not nervous about her first day at high school. Sure, she's never been to school before, or had real friends. Her mom is gone, her dad is changing to fit the image for police chief, and, well, she's NOT nervous. After all, she has her three older brothers to keep an eye on her. But she quickly discovers that high school is nothing like she expected and her brothers have changed without her even knowing it. They have lives and interests she can't share in and she feels lost and alone. Then she meets up with a punk girl named Lucy who's totally unlike anything she's known before, discovers she's possibly haunted by a ghost, and learns that while change may be hard, it comes to everyone.

If you've been following Faith Erin Hicks' work, you can see how her artwork has matured and improved over her last books. To me, this is her best work in terms of emotional depth. She brings out the complexity of the characters not just in the script but in the art, showing them serious, scared, angry, hurt and worried. Maggie has so many emotions as she steps out into a new world and starts growing up and realizing how she doesn't really know the people she's known all her life.

Verdict: This is like...Raina Telgemeier for teens. It's fascinating how the author can talk about bullying, social conformity, and just high school in general without stereotyping or falling into cliches. Not every plot point is resolved by the end of the book, including both the ghost story and Maggie's conflicted feelings over her mom leaving, but she and her new friends have a chance for a new start and a new friendship together. A must-have for your teen graphic novel collection.

ISBN: 9781596435568; Published 2012 by First Second; Purchased for the library and my personal library

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lost in Bermooda by Mike Litwin

I was hopeful about this book; Albert Whitman generally does really well with beginning chapter books and the cover and premise sounded cute. However, it really did not meet my expectations.

Chuck Porter, a calf on Bermooda, doesn't have any friends because he's so obsessed with adventure and exploration and what's out there beyond Bermooda. Maybe someday he'll even meet a hu'man! When he does, a shipwrecked boy named Dakota, he's amazed to find that they actually have a lot in common and he's made his first friend. Nevertheless, he tries to help Dakota to get back to his family, but nothing works out. Then, in the midst of a big storm, it looks like the hu'mans are invading! What's really going on and will Dakota and Chuck be able to handle it?

This plot sounds ok, but in practice it...really doesn't work. Chuck and Dakota are dumped down in the story with so little character development I couldn't keep them apart and had to keep looking back to see which one was the cow and which was the boy. Despite repeated mentions of how surprise Dakota is that nobody sees through his lame cow disguise...nobody ever does. The story really goes haywire when it suddenly turns into....I'm not even sure what it is, but basically the wealthiest cow who owns most of the island tries to play on the cows' fears to take over. But it's never explained how his family got to be so wealthy and influential, since the cows were all shipwrecked there in the beginning. There are gaping plot holes all over this, way too many even for a beginning chapter book. On top of that, here and there, there is...cow dialect? I'm not even sure what it is supposed to be, but it just to me. It's possible at that point that I was just reacting to my overall dislike of the book though.

Verdict: The illustrations really are cute and I think quite a few kids would pick up the book based on the cover, but very few will finish it and not without being disappointed. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9780807587188; Published 2014 by Mike Litwin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the baby: You are my baby: Farm by Lorena Siminovich

[This review was previously published. It has been edited and rewritten]

This is a new series by board book creator Lorena Siminovich. When I first wrote this review, the series had two titles, Farm and Safari. There are several others available now.

The novelty aspect of these is that it's actually two books. If you look closely at the picture you can see the line around the calf - that's the second book. Each one opens independently of each other, but the back cover is solid, so they're not held together only by the spine.

Each large page has a simple descriptive sentence "you have a curly, pink tail." When you open the small page, it shows the baby of the adult animal and says "you are my baby, little piglet. Oink, oink."

The pages are very thick and sturdy and I waggled them about (much to the well-disguised bewilderment of the publicists at ALA) without seeing any weak spots where the two books could come apart. That being said, a kid managed to rip them apart after having them for only a few months, but it was a deliberate assault - I think the books themselves are quite sturdy under normal wear and tear.

Verdict: Siminovich's art has really developed in this series. The colors are fresh and bright and the simple correlation of adult animal and child, plus animal sounds, is a classic. Her design and art meld into a delightfully unique interpretation of the classic "animal sounds" and "baby animals" board books. Highly recommended.

You are my baby: Farm
ISBN: 9781452106434; Published 2013 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, June 16, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman, photographs by Annie Crawley

If you're looking for a "Scientists in the Field" type book for younger readers, this title from Milbrook Press is a great selection.

Many kids (hopefully) will be familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but whether or not they have prior knowledge this is a good starting point. It's the story of a research voyage from the perspective of three student scientists. Miriam Goldstein, Chelsea Rochman, and Darcy Taniguchi are each researching a different part of ocean life as it might be affected by the garbage patch.

The book takes us through the research of each student, and also through daily life on board the research ship and how different types of ocean research are carried out. It also talks about possible impacts of plastic in the ocean and on earth and gives suggestions on how kids can help. Now, that last part I'm kind of meh about - it's the usual "use reusable bags" type thing which A. might or might not actually be helpful and B. most kids can't control those types of things, but it's a pretty common list of "ways kids can help the environment" and I get that you can't really explain the nuances to kids. Anyways.

Verdict: If you have kids interested in ocean science or science in general, this is a great book to introduce the general topic as well as the specific research ideas. It would work well for the entire range of middle grade, and the only drawback is that Milbrook's library bound titles are very expensive.

ISBN: 9781467712835; Published 2014 by Millbrook/Lerner; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's wishlist

Sunday, June 15, 2014

RA RA READ: Vampires, Werewolves, Faerie and the girls who love them

We moved the teen area downstairs in 2014 and at that time paranormal romance was still popular. While I still have a few fans, they mostly read the standards, Twilight, etc. and rarely ask for reader's advisory. Should the genre revive, I'll update this list.
  • Kiesha'ra (series) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
    • Shapeshifters, quick reads
  • Den of shadows (series) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
    • Time-traveling vampires
  • Morganville Vampires (series) by Rachel Caine
    • More in the "scary" than "romantic" vampire genre
  • House of Night (series) by P. C. Cast
    • These are awful, but teens devour them. A mixture of weird religious/vampire lore and a heroine that everyone, including gays and happily paired up people, immediately falls in lust with
  • Blue Bloods (series) by Melissa de la Crus
    • Gossip Girls + Vampires
  • Jessica's guide to dating on the dark side (first in a series) by Beth Fantaskey
    • Jessica is a practical mathlete with a nice normal boyfriend. Then her parents tell her she's been betrothed from birth to vampire royalty
  • Hush, Hush (first in a series) by Becca Fitzpatrick
    • Bad boy angels
  • Beautiful Creatures (series) by Kami Garcia
    • Twilight backwards - vampire girl, normal boy. The movie was a flop but the books are still popular
  • Evernight (series) by Claudia Gray
    • Gothic boarding school and students with strange powers
  • Need (series) by Carrie Jones
    • Hunky were creatures and scary faeries
  • Fallen (series) by Lauren Kate
    • Another Gothic boarding school containing students with strange powers
  • Blood and Chocolate; Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause
    • The original teen werewolf and vampire stories. Written by a librarian, so you know they're good.
  • Wicked Lovely (series) by Melissa Marr
    • Dark and tortured (sometimes torturing) faerie
  • Vampire Academy (series) by Richelle Mead
    • A slightly more fun vampire school. Still, you never know what's in the attic
  • Thirst (series) by Christopher Pike
    • Alisa must get close to Ray to ensure her immortality and she falls in love.
  • Vampire Kisses (series) by Ellen Schreiber
    • This is the series I most frequently recommend to kids who want to read Twilight but their parents don't want them to.
  • Tantalize (series) by Cynthia Leititch Smith
    • Murders, vampire-themed restaurants, werewolves-in-training...and it all happens in the live music scene of Austin, TX
  • Vampire Diaries (series) by L. J. Smith
    • Two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.
  • Shiver (trilogy) by Maggie Stiefvater
    • In all the years she has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house, Grace has been particularly drawn to an unusual yellow-eyed wolf who, in his turn, has been watching her with increasing intensity.
  • Lament (trilogy) by Maggie Stiefvater
    • Faeries and music
  • Faire Folk Trilogy by Gillian Summers
    • For RenFaire fans who would like the faeries to be real.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

This week at the library; or, The first week of summer

Random Commentary
  • This summer just feels...weird (yes, I know it's barely been a week). Circulation is definitely not slower - that's off the wall. Summer reading seems to be going about as usual, although I can't completely tell until more stuff comes back. Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday we gave out 400+ week 1 bookmarks (ages 3-12) so that was pretty good. Programs seem a little smaller though. I keep telling myself that everything doesn't have to be an insane, hyperventilation-inducing smash to be a success!
  • My BIG NEWS this week was that the preliminary public library data came out and I am SECOND in children's circulation! First is the one big city library in our consortium - I can't beat that - but I came in tops over everyone else! Collection development is a huge thing for me, so this is very thrilling.
  • Thinking about summer programming (yes, while I'm doing it I'm planning 2015. DON'T JUDGE ME) I'm thinking I might want to move away from the big parties right at the beginning of summer. Something more drop-in/participatory for the kick-off Saturday (life-size Candyland!) and then stick with performers for the Tuesday afternoon big programs instead of having these crafting extravaganzas right at our busiest time. I'd still do book parties (Fancy Nancy, Angry Birds, etc.) but I'd do them throughout the school year on Friday afternoons which I feel is a fairly busy time that we aren't utilizing as well as we could.
  • Then everything went crazy starting about Wednesday and numbers were off the wall, I barely had time to stop to breathe, went home late every night, 70 people came to Messy Art, we made almost $500 at the Usborne book sale, Friends had their book sale, almost 20 girls came to Girls Night Out, PHEW! I felt like I wasn't on the desk as much this week, but when I counted it was about 23 hours! I got lots of good book recommendations out to kids, which always rejuvenates me. I think the most popular book I took to the schools turned out to be Willo Davis Roberts' The Girl with Silver Eyes and the author I've recommended most this week was Ruth Chew, so perhaps it's the summer of the classics!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Froodle by Antoinette Portis

My only regret in reviewing this book is that I wasted SO LONG and didn't buy it immediately when it was released.

In a typical suburban backyard, all the animals have their sound. The dogs bark, the cats meow, and each bird makes a special sound. They coo, they chirp, they caw, they peep, all through the seasons. But one day...a little brown bird wants to say something different. Will she convince the other birds to try out some new sounds, or will she have to stick to her same old call?

This isn't a new story of course - there are plenty of picture books, chapter books, and more out there about being different, standing up for yourself, and bucking tradition. What makes this book so delightful is the complete lack of earnest lesson-ness. Little Brown Bird isn't trying to say something profound or fight for the rights of all little brown birds (not that it would be a bad thing) she just wants to try something new and be a little silly for a change.

The art has Portis' minimalist outlines with added digital color that makes it look like almost like a photo collage. The backgrounds are simple and there aren't a lot of colors but the art fits in just right with the story. My only quibble is that, while the nonsense words and dialogue are in speech bubbles or bold black text, the brief sentences of the narrative are placed against darker backgrounds and can be difficult to pick out.

Antoinette Portis is a master of taking a very simple concept or idea and combining it with her deceptively minimalist art to create a delightful story that will resonate with both children and parents. Share this in storytime or one-on-one to discover the joys of trying something new and being silly.

ISBN: 9781596439221; Published 2014 by Roaring Brook; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: How Hippo says Hello by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts

This is a cool idea, but I'm not sure that a board book was the best format. The first page says "When Hippo says 'Hello!'..." and then the following pages each introduce a different greeting "He says 'Bonjour!' in France" etc. Each spread has the greeting (with pronunciation) on one side on a solid color background and an image of Hippo in an activity in the corresponding country. In India he rides an elephant, in France he eats at a cafe, in Japan he greets a number of traditionally dressed animals with paper umbrellas, etc. The final spread shows "Hippo's Travel Map!" with all the places he visited marked.

The art is cute and chunky, with smiling anthropomorphic animals and a little red bird to find in every picture. It's not exactly pastel, but has a soft, blurry feeling to it. It's a traditional board book shape, about six inches square.

Verdict: I feel like a lot of board books are too complex for the babies/toddlers who should ideally be using them. On the one hand, it's a good idea to introduce other languages to children at a young age and the pictures are cute and attractive. On the other hand, is a baby or toddler really going to understand the concept of foreign languages and countries? This seems, on the whole, to be a book directed at more of a preschool/parent audience.

ISBN: 9781454908203; Published 2014 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, June 9, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Gardening Lab for kids by Renata Fossen Brown

Around this time of year, or even earlier, I start looking for new gardening books to add to the collection. It's really hard to find gardening books that actually talk about gardening and are directed towards kids without being a collection of crafts with some seed planting thrown in.

There's a really wide variety of projects in the book, but some things were disappointing to me. The subtitle reads "52 fun experiments to learn, grow, harvest, make, play, and enjoy your garden". The book is supposedly directed at kids, but most of the information seems to be aimed at parents and the type is very small.

The introduction talks about the benefits of gardening, the basic parts of a plant, planting zones, annuals and perennials, watering basics (geared towards the Midwest), and basic gardening tips and tools. The second section, getting started, has growing seeds in a bag, designing and planting, and different tools like making your own sprinkler or water gauge, painting a tool tote, etc. The third section offers "theme gardening" which varies from things like a pizza garden or butterfly garden to a "shoe garden" (plants in rubber boots) or a "baseball garden" (decorating a pot and using a baseball bat as a trellis). The fourth section, green gardening, has things like making a home for pollinators, creating a worm bin, making your own rain barrel, and creating a bird feeder. The fifth section, "garden art" is pretty much what it sounds like - stepping stones, a birdbath, and lots of different things to put in the garden. The last section, "enjoying your garden" has things like writing garden poetry, making a garden journal, and creating a garden fort.

Throughout the book there are sections called "dig deeper" with additional information or suggestions. There are also some resources listed.

I liked the variety of projects, although nearly all of them need extensive adult assistance with power tools, chemicals, etc. A lot of them posit a fairly large yard and/or access to a lot of different tools and materials. The book really is directed towards adults, not kids, so it would have perhaps been more accurate to say "Gardening Lab WITH kids" not FOR kids. Some of the projects don't show the finished item and everything looks very tidy and organized. No garden I've been involved in ever looked like that. I didn't see any mention of using chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides or not and there is a lot of lawn shown in many of the pictures. There's also no mention of using native plants and other than a couple things like birdfeeders, no mention of wildlife gardening. Of course, that's not the main point of the book, but since it is so adult in outlook, I would think those things would have been briefly mentioned.

My major gripe with the book though? The author is responsible for education at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, so presumably she knows the city of Cleveland well. Cleveland is about 50% African American and 10% Hispanic. All of the children pictured in photographs have cameos in the back of the book where you can clearly see their faces. This makes the staggering lack of diversity in the 17 children used as models in the book even more glaring. Of the 17 kids, 3, maybe 4, appear to be biracial and all have light skin. The kids appear to have been drawn from her friends and neighbors and I'm not saying she should have lined the kids up and picked a range of skin colors or something, but I can't believe that in a city with such a large African American population she couldn't find a more diverse group of kids to participate. Apparently only kids with light skin are photogenic and anyways gardening is not something for black kids. Yes, this really annoyed me. Even DK, with their ridiculously gendered books includes a more diverse range of kids.

Verdict: This isn't a bad gardening book, and I think it would circulate, but it's not the best. I'm looking for gardening books that are geared more specifically to younger children, that have simple, inexpensive projects, and that feature a more diverse range of children participating in the activities.

ISBN: 9781592539048; Published 2014 by Quarry Books; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Saturday, June 7, 2014

This week at the library; or, Summer Reading Approaches

  • Elementary School visit (2 schools)
  • Welty Environmental Center: Twitter on the Wing
  • Summer Reading!
  • Usborne Book Fair
Random Commentary
  • Well, a small but vocal group of the teens are NOT happy about the move - but I expected that. Their complaints are "we can't talk" "people stare at us" and "we don't like it". I finally got a definite answer why they won't go to the after school place in town "we just have to sit there and be quiet". Um, why exactly would you think you could do anything else at the library? I told them to suck it up. We've been telling them for years they were too noisy and they couldn't hang out here for hours and hours and now we're enforcing it. The computers are in the way and a bit too big, but that will be taken care of when we get new furniture. Next year maybe. On the positive side, several younger kids were practically sobbing with joy at discovering all the new superhero comics in the teen area. Most of the teens, specifically those actually using the materials and the area for something other than a hang-out/make-out spot, don't really care either way. I think everyone will get used to it in the end (they'll have to anyways!) but I'm waiting to see how circulation is affected.
  • Somebody make me stop! With two days to summer reading, I decided to shift all the picture books to put the Neighborhoods first (or, rather, assign one of my aides to shift them). I did finish all my school visits first though...
  • I'm generally not very sociable - in real life or online - but I do admit to a little thrill of pleasure at being interviewed on Library Adventure (yes, that is the back of my head. I don't like having my picture taken)
  • We got all our displays done, interactive and otherwise, all the shifting and moving finished (for now anyways) and finished cleaning out the storyroom (by dumping everything that was left in my office). I also spent half a day cleaning out the summer reading closet (should really be reading program closet I suppose, because all the winter reading stuff is in there too). My feet hurt afterwards, but it was worth it! I do still have programs to plan in more detail, but I have an associate! I don't have to be at the youth desk every minute!
  • Saturday I had all my staff in at 9am (although actually that's not what I put on the schedule which led to my confused staff being like "should we come when you tell us to come or when the schedule says to come?" which led to me telling my staff to just ignore me), an hour before we opened, to make sure everything was absolutely ready - displays filled, summer reading materials out, community room set up for the Welty Center...we were READY! Would people come? I have never had such a slow kick-off. Last year 60 people came to Welty, this year barely 20 showed up. I don't think I advertised any less than last year, and I always have plenty of people even with Bike Safety going on, so I just don't really know what happened. I also have really low sign-ups for the big parties - only about 15 people are signed up. WHY?? Ok, apparently hand foot and mouth was distributed at the schools last week before they closed - at least two families are out with it. That may be a reason right there. Or the weather's nicer this year and everyone is out...or it's just a slow-starting year...a lot more people came around 11:30ish and I think I did ok - I won't know for certain until people start returning logs since I count participation, not registration - but I think next year I'll have the Welty center later, like 11 or 11:30. Ok, yeah, about 50 people total came to Welty but most came in later, so starting later would probably be good.
I have so many pictures of awesome displays, shifting projects, etc. that I just made a whole photo album for the summer. You can check it out here.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Eric Shanower, illustrated by Skottie Young

This is the sixth Oz adaptation from Shanower and Young and, to my sorrow, the last. I am sad that we will never get to see the duo take on some of my other favorites, but really I can't complain since they did my all-time favorite, Ozma of Oz, complete with the dinner pail and lunch box trees. *sigh of satisfaction*. This book is a good stopping place if they weren't planning to continue through the rest of the famous forty anyways.

This is a much slighter book than the other titles and Baum originally meant it to end the series. Dorothy and her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are once more in difficulties in Kansas and this time Dorothy makes the decision to stay forever in Oz, since Ozma offers to let Uncle Henry and Aunt Em live there as well. Happily settled in Oz after a few initial contretemps, Ozma suggests the three of them, accompanied by a few trustworthy friends, take a journey through Oz to visit some of the strange places and peoples that not even Dorothy has seen. The little group is soon enjoying themselves thoroughly on several pun-filled adventures, but back in the Emerald City danger is looming - the Nome King and a host of terrible allies are marching on the city! Ozma refuses to fight, but will they find a peaceful solution? Of course they do and the decision is made to render Oz invisible and cut off from the rest of the world so there may be no more attacks. So we say goodbye forever to Dorothy, Ozma, and all their friends.

This tpb is only five issues long, but Shanower and Young pack all the pertinent details and the most delightful elements of the story into even such a small space. We see all the strange creatures who ally with the Nome King as well as the high spots of Dorothy's trip - the Fuddles, Utensia, and my favorite, Bunbury. The text includes the best of the jokes, narration, and dialog without being too dense. Skottie Young, as always, does a gorgeous job translating the odd creatures and places into images and maintaining the continuity of characters from previous books. I really love his interpretation of Ozma, who can sometimes be rather static in the original stories. She has a much wider range of emotions and reactions in the artwork.

Verdict: Even if you don't have a lot of Oz fans, these stories are worth purchasing. I was sadly contemplating the weeding of my library's Oz books when these adaptations revived interest. Not only the graphic adaptations but the original volumes now check out and I'm planning to replace and add to the original books with updated editions. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780785183884; Published 2014 by Marvel; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Little Adventures in Oz vol. 1 by Eric Shanower

Quite a few people are, or should be, aware of the Marvel adaptations of L. Frank Baum's classic Oz stories - they're adapted by Eric Shanower and illustrated by Skottie Young. But did you know that Eric Shanower wrote his own Oz stories? Not only straight prose, but also a really fun series of graphic novel stories. They were put in one beautiful complete volume, now sadly out of print and quite expensive, assuming you can find one at all, but they were also issued in two smaller volumes which are still available and definitely worth it if you're an Oz fan.

This first volume opens with a colorful map of Oz and then two four delightful stories. The first, "The Enchanted Apples of Oz", features Dorothy and the Scarecrow. They're out on a walk when they suddenly encounter an enchanted castle. Within the castle they find Valynn, Guardian of the Enchanted Apples, which protect the enchantment of Oz. But a wicked sorcerer is out to steal the apples - what can he want them for? Oz is in great danger and it will take an unexpected ally to save the country from losing all its magic. In "The Ice King", a seemingly friendly deputation comes from the titular king, but they want Dorothy to marry the king! When she refuses, the Ice King's deputation shows their true colors and treacherously attack Ozma. Is the magic of Glinda the Good and the Wizard strong enough to save her? Along the way, they meet a new friend - Flicker the Candle-Maker, who's under an unfortunate curse. The stories end with a cover gallery, character studies, and four pages of an unfinished story about General Jinjur. There's also a brief, two page history of Oz.

Shanower's stories capture the true flavor of Oz from the emphasis on friendship and kindness to the strange creatures and odd escapades. He doesn't quite have the humor of L. Frank Baum's original works, but all the adventure and magic is there. Of all the continuations of Baum's work, except for Ruth Plumly Thompson of course, his titles are the best. The art is fresh and accessible, with bright colors, interesting backgrounds, and clearly identifiable characters. My only quibble is giving Ozma red hair, which breaks with canon.

Verdict: It's worth taking a little extra time and trouble to track these down. The Shanower and Young adaptations of the original works have revived interest in these classic and delightful stories and kids will be eager to read continuations in graphic novel form.

ISBN: 9781600105890; Published 2010 by IDW; From my personal library

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Read, Read, Read, Said the Baby: How do dinosaurs love their dogs; How do dinosaurs love their cats by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague

[This review was previously published and has been updated and edited]

Did you know Jane Yolen's popular dinosaur series were board books as well as picture books? I did not until I received these review copies. These board books are a little different than the picturebooks, as they're clearly divided into "good" and "bad" behaviors with pets. First, we see the ways a dinosaur should NOT love his dog or cat by being rough and neglectful. Then, we see how a dinosaur really loves her dog or cat by being gentle and responsible. Mark Teague's illustrations are even funnier than the picture books with hilariously over-the-top bad behavior and adorable sweetness on the good behaviors.

I tested these out on my research team; first on our adult services librarian's almost-toddler who did not approve. I think these were a little long for him and he's not into dinosaurs yet. our second testing phase, with Ms. Pattie and the toddlers at storytime, they were a wow! The kids went crazy over the dinosaurs and their silly behavior.

Verdict: These are great examples of board books for slightly older toddlers, closer to the 3 yrs old range. They have simple, rhyming text but elements of a story, colorful bold pictures that express simple emotions and actions, and broad humor that is just perfect for kids who are starting to comprehend jokes.

How do dinosaurs love their dogs
ISBN: 978-0545153522; Published January 2010 by Blue Sky Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates; Donated to the library

How do dinosaurs love their cats
ISBN: 978-0545153546; Published January 2010 by Blue Sky Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates; Donated to the library

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Toby by Stacy A. Nyikos, illustrations by Shawn Sisneros

I don't usually review unsolicited titles - and I'll be honest, I have not been impressed with Sky Pony's titles in the past and generally avoid them. However, the cover on this book was appealing and I am always looking for read-aloud nonfiction so I decided to give it a chance.

The endpages have stylized black turtles with a pattern of blue dots on their shells and around their eyes. Very attractive. The title page has an image in black and white that was very confusing until I stared at it for a few minutes and realized it's the mother turtle's track in the sand. She's a dark blobby shadow at the end. Under the title itself is a collection of turtle eggs with a tiny blue-shelled turtle curled in one. The first page of the story includes all of the publication information and acknowledgements on the left and the first page of the story on the right. The background is blown-up turtle eggs with the holes where the turtles left and Toby poking his head out. The story continues with Toby discovering he's been left behind by the other turtle hatchlings. He's scared and unsure, but hears a song that calls him out of the egg and towards the ocean. A bird offers to help him, but Toby feels scared and refuses. He slides down dunes, buries a crab in sand, and then accidentally wakes up a crocodile by getting sand in his mouth. He offers to help and crawls into the crocodile's mouth even though he's scared, but gets sneezed out and lands in the ocean. The crocodile chases him, but he hides in the seaweed and gets a good meal. He then swims out to sea and finds all his siblings. A final page labeled "Turtle Treats" narrates the life cycle of baby turtles and gives a few books for further reading.

Some of the art is interesting, but most of it is oddly blown up and fuzzy. It uses digital mediums badly, looking slick and poorly drawn, and is laid out in a confusing way. The overblown illustrations might work in a very large storytime or projected on a screen, but for smaller storytimes or one-on-one reading the pictures are not well-designed.

From the author's note, it's clear that she has done some research and knows at least the basic life cycle of a turtle. So I'm disappointed that she chose to write a fictionalized and completely unrealistic version of the turtle's story. When I'm looking for read-aloud nonfiction, I look for factual accounts that I can expand on with discussion, or for a strong storyline with facts that can be drawn out and discussed. The anthropomorphism is heavily emphasized and does not lend to the discussion of the turtle's life cycle. It's closer to a folktale, with all the animals talking and offering help but really being interested in eating the turtle. However, a child isn't going to have the context of the turtle's journey to understand what's fact and what's fiction. Finally, the story is written in rhyming verse and not good verse either. It appears that many of the plot points were only put in to rhyme and not to advance the story. For example,

"He paddled and he waddled
And he struggled through the sand.
His flippers were for swimming
Not for wading over land.

"I can help you," said a birdie.
"You can fly inside my bill."
It was dark and dank and smelly
And gave Toby quite a chill.

"Maybe next time," Toby said
And disappeared beneath its nose.
The birdie tried to follow,
But got tangled in a pose."

The first verse does well in giving information about the turtle's flippers, but the second does not identify the bird and the third is just ridiculous - the picture shows the bird looking at the turtle between its legs and why is it "posing" anyways? Also, calling a bird's beak a "nose" is definitely incorrect terminology.

Verdict: The quality of the art varies a lot, but it does have some good points. The story itself not only gives very little actual information about a sea turtle's life cycle, but the anthropomorphic story is told in labored and unnecessary verse. If the author could get away from the "children's books must be written in rhyme" trap that so many authors fall into and write a simple story about the actual life cycle of a turtle, it might work out - she has some nice turns of phrase here and there and is obviously passionate and interested in her subject. As it is, I couldn't recommend this book to any library. If you're looking for turtle books for storytime, go with April Pulley Sayre's Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out!

ISBN: 9780976419952; Published 2014 by Stonehorse/Sky Pony; Review copy provided by the author